Posts Tagged ‘journalistic’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

November 7, 2012

Author: Ann Rule

Title: Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

Genre: True Crime, Essays (Nonfiction)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Various geographical settings, but mainly Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.

Time Period: 1970s through 2002

Plot Summary: This collection of stories features some of Ann Rule’s most deranged and horrendous criminals. The book is a collection of twelve true stories about criminals, and includes three cases (the first three of the book) that have never been included in other collections. Ann Rule is a relatively popular true crime writer, and has published many collections of true crime stories, and this one is a collection of some of the worst from her first eight volumes. Each story is set up similarly, with an opening describing the particular town and the victims, and the tone is very reminiscent of a true crime TV show.

Subject Headings: Murder, Murderers, Criminals, Crime, Vic tims, True Crime, United States Case Studies

Appeal: Gritty, Compelling, Emotionally Charged, Menacing, Macabre, Chilling, Nonfiction, True Crime, Journalistic, Compelling, Realistic, Well Researched,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Journalistic, Well Researched

Similar fiction authors and works:

Azzarello, Brian. 100 Bullets Volume 1: First Shot Last Call

A mysterious man known as Agent Graves approaches strangers on the street and offers them the chance to exact revenge on someone who has wronged them in their past. He provides them with a gun, untraceable bullets, and guarantees immunity from any troubles, including murder. This first book in a collection of 13 graphic novels is gritty and chilling, and takes a look at what people will do when offered guaranteed protection.

Collins, Max Allen. Double Dealer: CSI Crime Scene Investigation Book 1

A homicide cop, a forensic analyst, and their team of hard boiled police force members work together to solve a murder. Fans of the gritty writing style of Without Pity, or fans of the television show CSI will surely enjoy this novel.

Ellroy, James. Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A.

This collection of short stories presents some dark and gritty fiction tales taking place in the L.A. crime scene. Fans of the gritty chilling writing style and the short story presentation of Without Pity will be sure to enjoy this fictional but no less dark collection.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Connelly, Michael. Crime Beat

This nonfiction work by a well known fiction writer is sure to interest readers. Connelly tells a collection of stories of his time working as a crime reporter in both Florida and Los Angeles, and how these stories have influenced his work as a bestselling fiction crime writer.

Schecter, Harold. True Crime: an American Anthology

This true crime work is a collection of stories from all different time periods. It includes some well known cases and also some lesser known ones, by a variety of authors from Ben Franklin to Ann Rule, and spans over 300 years of true crime writing.

Campbell, John H. Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind

This collection of fifteen essays compiles stories from some of the nation’s top homicide investigators. It chronicles the investigation process and the mysteries that surround a variety of crimes, from murder to abduction.

Post by Ellen

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

August 8, 2012

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War


Author: James Bradley

Title: The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

Genre: Nonfiction; History Writing (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 387

Geographical Setting: United States, Japan, East Asia, and Pacific Ocean

Time Period: 1905

Plot Summary: This book covers the historical cruise from the Pacific Islands to the continent of Asia made by defense secretary Taft and President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice along with other political figures of the time. This book reveals the prejudicial views of some of the most prominent leaders of the United States and exposes some tragic foreign policy decisions concerning Asia and the Pacific Islands. Although some may argue with some of the views or opinions presented in the book, it is well documented with over 30 pages of “Notes” at the end. It is filled with historic details including maps and original photographs from the time. This book has a journalistic tone, and is quite insightful and compelling.

Subject Headings: Roosevelt, Theodore; Taft, William H.; United States. Navy-Cruise; Imperialism; Diplomacy; War; Twentieth Century

Appeal: scholarly, compelling, journalistic, densely-written, sobering, insightful, investigative, thought-provoking, historical details, political, informative, well-researched, disturbing

3 terms that best describe this book: insightful, journalistic, historic details

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Habits of Empire by Walter Nugent – If you enjoyed the historical perspective of the Teddy Roosevelt presidency in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this book that covers a broader range of American imperialism.

2.      Alice by Stacy Cordery – If you would like to find out more about Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice who joined the historical cruise, you may enjoy this book.

3.      In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow – If you would like to read more about the history of the Philippines especially as related to the events in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this one.  

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Taft by Jason Heller – This plot-driven novel is about William Taft entering the 2012 election. If you enjoyed reading about Taft in The Imperial Cruise, you might enjoy this fiction novel.

2.      Cuba by Stephen Coonts – If you like to read about American imperialism set against a historical backdrop, you may like this book.

3.      To The Last Man by Jeff Shaara – This fiction novel is set during World War I. If you enjoy reading stories about politics and wars, you may enjoy this one.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Phonogram: Rue Britannia

April 18, 2012

Author: Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Title: Phonogram: Rue Britannia

Genre: graphic novel, urban fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 152

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 2006

Series (if applicable): one sequel

Plot Summary: David Kohl is an aging hip kid, completely self-absorbed and only interested in drinking, smoking and going home with a pretty girl at the end of a concert. He is also a phonomancer, which is a type of magician who works arcane spells through music to find their true meaning. Baptized in the early-90’s by Britannia, the goddess of British guitar pop, he learned how to use magic through the genre of music known as Britpop, defined by bands such as Pulp, Suede, Blur and Elastica. He turned his back on Britannia when everybody started worshipping her, and she has since been long dead. Although he left her many years ago, when he discovers that her corpse is being tampered with he knows he has to save her, since his past is rooted with her. If the enemy succeeds in reviving a dead goddess, his entire past could change, and he could become a Kula Shaker fan with no magical powers. Phonogram is about the magic of music, and not ever letting go of it, but learning to move on when the time comes. Britpop fans will squeal over the many inside references to songs and bands, and for those whose knowledge of Britpop begins and ends with Oasis, there is a handy glossary in the back that defines every single reference made.

Subject Headings: British music, fantasy, magic, England.

Appeal: character-driven, complex, contemplative, humorous, magical, intriguing, flawed, strong secondary characters, well-developed, explicitly violent, detailed setting, journalistic, smart, spare, witty.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-driven, magical, smart.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Britpop!: Cool Britannia And The Spectacular Demise Of English Rock by John Harriss
The heyday of Britpop (1994-1998) began as a reaction against American grunge. In the past bands such as the Smiths and Joy Division were contemptuous of mainstream success, the bands in the 90’s sought it out, with Blur and Oasis competing for the top spot in the charts. It ended in the usual way, with drugs, infighting and egotism. Harris makes the rise and fall of a music movement a fun read.

2. A Version of Reason: In Search of Richey Edwards by Rob Jovanovic

A subplot of Phonogram is the ghost of a memory of David’s ex-stalker who is still haunting the roof of the club they used to hang out at, mourning Richey Edwards. In 1995, the guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers disappeared without a trace. His car was found abandoned on the Severn Bridge and it looked like suicide, but a body was never found. This drove the already-fervid Manics fans into near religious worship. Jovanovic attempts to piece together what might have happened that day.

3. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick) by Raymond Buckland

Buckland’s is one of the definitive books for serious students of magic. Whether you take magic seriously or not, this is one of the books that a fantasy writer would research in order to get the details right for a story. If you’d like to know more about rituals, history, covens and spellwork, this is the book to turn to.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Without Sandman, there could be no Phonogram. Gaiman changed what people thought graphic novels could do with this series about Dream, part of the Endless, consisting of Death, Desire, Delirium, Destiny and Destruction. Gods, goddesses, demons and magic abound in this series.

2. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim is a clueless slacker while David Kohl is knowingly selfish, and the music is indie while in Phonogram it’s Britpop, and the super powers are based on video games instead of magic, but anyone who learned to love David in Phonogram will be smitten with Scott Pilgrim.

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

The inside references are fast and furious in this series by Alan Moore, but it’s about brit lit instead of brit pop. Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Allan Quartermain, and Mina Harker team up to fight evil. Packed with action/adventure and literary allusions, this will make any book nerd’s heart beat faster.


Name: Jessica

World War Z

April 4, 2012

Author: Max Brooks

Title: World War Z

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Global

Time Period: not too distant future

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This book takes place after the zombie war has already occurred. Compiling interviews from all sorts of people from many different countries, Brooks attempts to piece together exactly what happened when the dead began to rise. Interviews range from doctors to American housewives to body guards to war veterans, detailing where they were when they discovered this disease wasn’t “rabies” like they were told, and how the world eventually conquered over two million walking corpses. The pacing is moderate, but the short interviews from so many different types of people make this a page turner. Highlights include the doctor in China who discovers “Patient Zero”, a twelve-year old boy who had been bitten while swimming, the body guard assigned to protect a mansion full of rich people and celebrities from zombies while they get filmed to the masses, and a Japanese warrior monk who recounts how he escaped a high rise full of zombies back when he was a socially awkward computer nerd. Part war novel and part survival guide, this book will keep the reader up at night planning out his/her escape route for when the undead come scratching at the door.

Subject Headings: undead, zombies, diseases, epidemics, supernatural, survival (after epidemics) war.

Appeal: builds in intensity, measured, chilling, darker, nightmare, deadpan, intriguing, multiple points of view, explicitly violent, action-oriented, political, stark, conversational, journalistic, straight-forward, well-crafted, well-researched.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: chilling, multiple points of view, explicitly violent.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis by Peggy Layton.

If after reading World War Z, you are feeling less than prepared for the zombie apocalypse, or any other disaster, this book will teach you how to equip your home with food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

One of the terrifying aspects of zombie lore is that it begins as a disease and turns into an epidemic that no one knows how to cure. The Ghost Map chronicles such an epidemic when cholera breaks out over London in 1854.

3. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis.

Zombie mythology originates from Haitian voodoo (voudon), and is an unfortunate stereotype of a complex religion. Davis explains how one goes about making a zombie (a harsh punishment exacted to someone found guilty of a heinous crime), as well as the politics of Haitian culture.


3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Twelve-year-old Oskar has a crush on the new girl (“I’m not a girl,” she keeps telling him) living next door, who only comes out at night. Both bone-chilling and heart-warming at the same time, this updated take on classic vampires who drink real blood and don’t sparkle, compels the reader to fall in love with Eli and root for her no matter how gruesome her actions become.


2. Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson

In Koontz’s take on Frankenstein, 7 foot monster Deucalion is living peacefully in a Tibetan monastery when he discovers that his creator is still alive and living in New Orleans. Deucalion must track him down before he creates an army of “posthumans” that take over the world.


3, The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber.

Two detectives in New York discover a secret pack of werewolves preying on weak humans who won’t be missed. Streiber plays with the werewolf myth to create a separate race of wolf-men with heightened sense of smell and hearing and superhuman intelligence.


Name: Jessica

Into Thin Air

March 28, 2012

Author:  Jon Krakauer

Title: Into Thin Air:  A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 332

Geographical Setting: Mount Everest (The border between China and Nepal)

Time Period:  1996

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The story begins when journalist Jon Krakauer is asked by Outside magazine to report on the booming popularity of high-altitude climbing.  At the time, mountaineering had become a fad.  People wanted to pay to climb Everest, but they lacked one essential thing: the skills required to survive the climb.  Many ill-prepared men and women accompanied Krakauer on his ascent, and as a result the expedition ended up being the most deadly in Everest’s history.  This is the story of exactly what went wrong.

In this reflective and haunting book, Krakauer provides a first person account of the disaster.  In addition to great detail about the actual climb, he provides plenty of background information about previous Everest expeditions, as well as the history of the indigenous men, Sherpas, who assist Westerners in their climb.  As informative as it is thrilling, this book is sure to have readers on the edge of their seat.

Subject Headings: Adventure; Expeditions; Extreme Sports; Krakauer, Jon; Mount Everest Expedition 1996; Mountaineering; Mountaineering Accidents; Mountaineers

Appeal: Haunting, Suspenseful, Informative, Reflective, Detailed, Historical Details, Journalistic, Thoughtful, Plot-Driven, Chilling, Claustrophobic, Atmospheric, Well Developed

3 Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book: Suspenseful, Chilling, Informative

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (by Aron Ralston): This is the shocking memoir of an adventurer who’s hike through the Utah canyons took a turn for the worse when a boulder fell and trapped him, by the arm, in the middle of a canyon.  The book will appeal to readers intrigued by an adventure gone totally wrong.

Climbing Self Rescue:  Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations (by Mike Clelland): This resource helps readers learn self rescue procedures that are effective for rock, snow, and ice climbers alike.  Including 40 different rescue scenarios, this book helps climbers learn how to get themselves out of a jam using typical climbing gear and common sense.  This book will appeal to readers interested in the rock climbing aspect of Into Thin Air.

Touching My Father’s Soul:  A Sherpa’s Journey to the Top of Everest (by Jamling Tenzing Norgay):  The author, a local man who makes a living assisting tourists in their climb up Everest, describes his experiences.  In addition to providing stories of his time on Everest, he also narrates the story of his father, the first Sherpa to reach the peak of Everest.  He provides background information about the society of the Sherpa, and the Tibetan Buddhists who assist Western climbers in their ascent.  This book will appeal to readers who were intrigued by the local culture surrounding Mount Everest.

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

A Change in Altitude (by Anita Shreve): This reflective and psychological work involves a woman coming to terms with a tragic accident that takes place while on a climbing expedition.  Readers who enjoyed Into Thin Air but wish for a fictionalized account of a climbing accident may enjoy this book.

Life of Pi (by Yann Martle): This haunting and suspenseful novel is about a zookeeper’s son who is en route to America when his ship sinks.  He finds himself on a lifeboat with various animals, completely lost at sea and struggling to survive.  Readers who enjoyed the fight-for-survival aspect of Into Thin Air may enjoy this bestselling work.

The Ascent (by Jeff Long):  In this novel, ten men and two women attempt to ascend the most dangerous side of Mount Everest.  Readers who are interested in a fictitious account of an attempt at Everest’s peak will likely enjoy this work.

Name: Katie Midgley


November 8, 2011

Author: Dave Cullen

Title: Columbine

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 432

Geographical Setting: Jefferson County, Colorado

Time Period: 1999

Plot Summary: On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out one of the most infamous mass murders in American history. This book, written by a journalist considered the leading authority on the Columbine killers, peels back the layers of myth and misinformation (fed by media blunders and police cover-ups) that surrounded the Columbine incident, delving into the factual details of what really happened and attempting to answer the elusive question of why the killers did it. Cullen examines the backgrounds of Eric and Dylan extensively, as well as the investigation that followed the shooting and the Columbine community’s long healing process. In addition to profiling the killers, Cullen etches character studies of victims and survivors, creating the definitive nonfiction account of a tragedy whose impact continues to reverberate in American society.

Subject Headings: School shootings; High school; True crime; Columbine murders

Appeal: character-centered, detailed, disturbing, engrossing, eye-opening, fast-paced, heartbreaking, informative, investigative, journalistic, multiple points of view, psychological, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: detailed, investigative, thought-provoking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote [True crime; about a pair of young male murderers; detailed, journalistic, psychological]

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gentry [True crime; informative account of infamous murders (Manson family); fast-paced, detailed]

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer [True crime; assumes POV of killer and gets inside his head (Cullen also does this); covers killer’s background, crimes, and aftermath]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Project X by Jim Shepard [School-shooting story from the POV of the killers; delves into psychology of killers; realistically depicts teenage alienation]

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver [School-shooting story from the POV of the killer’s mother; delves into psychology of killer; detailed, disturbing]

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland [About a Columbine-esque school shooting; deals with victims, survivors and parents; multiple points of view]

Name: Brian W.


August 10, 2011

Author: Dave Eggers

Title:  Zeitoun

Genre:  Non Fiction

Pub. Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 346

Geographical Setting: New Orleans

Time Period: Hurricane Katrina

Plot Summary:  Abdulrahman Zeitoun, his wife and four children are residents of New Orleans and owners of a successful contracting business when Hurricane Katrina hits. Zeitoun decides to ride the storm out in order to protect his house and business. After days of helping neighbors and those in need Zeitoun disappears. His family begin a harrowing search to discover what has happened. It will change forever the way they feel about this country, New Orleans and their place in it.

Subject Headings: Hurricane Katrina, Disaster victims, Louisiana New Orleans, Culture conflict

Appeal:  measured, engrossing, disturbing, emotionally-charged, moving, sobering, detailed, vivid, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, political, journalistic, thoughtful, informative

Three terms that best describe this book: issue-oriented, thought-provoking and moving

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos – The story of three immigrant girls and the social adjustments they must face. Issue-oriented, thoughtful and moving story.

Little Bee by Chris Cleeve – Hits on political issues both in Africa and the U.S. Moving, disturbing and thought- provoking.

When We Were Strangers by The story of a young Italian immigrant woman working through tragedies such as the Chicago fire to find a better life. Vivid, moving and emotionally-charged.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned by Cathy Scott – This heartwarming book introduces us to the stories of animals rescued after Hurricane Katrina. It would appeal to those interested in learning more about these rescues after reading about the trapped dogs that Zeitoun feed.

In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster by Susan Zakin – Haunting images that bring home the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in a visual way. A nice supplement for readers of Zeitoun who are interested in seeing for themselves the disastrous effects of a hurricane.

Isaac’s Storm: A man, A Time and the Deadliest Hurricane in History  by Erik Larson – A fast paced account told from the point of view of Isaac Cline, the senior U.S. Weather Bureau official in Galveston at the time. This is a different time and a different hurricane but may appeal to readers of Zeitoun who want another non fiction account of a devastating hurricane and it’s affect on the people who lived through it.

Mary Othic

In Cold Blood

August 8, 2011

Author: Truman Capote

Title: In Cold Blood: a True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

Genre: Non-fiction/True Crime

Publication Date: 1965

Number of Pages: 343

Geographical Setting: Holcomb, Kansas

Time Period: November 1959- April 1965

Plot Summary:  In November of 1959, The Clutter family, a prominent, wealthy household of four, were ruthlessly and senselessly murdered.  The story starts on the day of the murder, rightfully titled: The Last to See Them Alive.  It then goes to the two killers points of view describing their flee from Kansas, their childhoods, and their unfeeling emotions towards the crime that they committed.  Dewey, a detective on the case only has little evidence to lead on and the words of a convicted felon informing him that he heard a man talk about planning to rob and kill the Clutter family.  Will he be able to bring the two men to justice?

Subject Headings: True Crime, Clutter Family, Murder Investigation,

Appeal: evocative, descriptive, well-crafted, philosophical, flawed characters, journalistic, compelling, sobering, character-centered

3 terms that best describe this book: tragic, small-town, bleak

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell

This story examines the case of Jack the Ripper and his serial killing that terrorized London in the 1880s.  Using forensic science, research, and insight into the criminal mind, she reveals the true identity of the infamous murderer.  Similar to In Cold Blood, it gives insight into the mind of a murderer.  (detailed, strong sense of place, compelling)

Death Sentence: the True Story of Velma Barfield’s Life, Crimes, and Execution by Jerry Bledsoe   

Bledsoe describes Barfield’s abusive and poverty-stricken childhood and how it led to her killing four people, two of them being her mother and boyfriend.  Similar to In Cold Blood, it discusses the past of a killer and how it lead up to the killings.  (bleak, disturbing, moving)

Helter Skelter: the True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

This is the inside story behind how Manson was able to make his “family” murder for him and how he was brought to justice. (gritty, descriptive, menacing)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Capote in Kansas by Ande Parks

This Graphic novel tells the fictional story of the trip that Capote took to Kansas with Harper Lee to find out about the Clutter murders.  Similar to In Cold Blood, this novel looks at what it might have been like when Capote researched for his novel. (graphic novel, bleak, disturbing)

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Freud is called to New York to analyze a hysterical woman who escaped an attack from a serial killer, but can remember nothing of the assault.  Similar to In Cold Blood, this story looks at the gritty aspects of a murderer. (gritty, detailed, complex characters)

A Mansion and Its Murder by Bernard Bastable

Sara Jane Fearing’s uncle mysteriously dies after marrying and producing a son.  50 years later, she recounts the scene and her childhood growing up with indifferent parents.  Similar to In Cold Blood, it is the retelling of a suspicious death in a rich family. (intricately plotted, detailed, atmospheric)

Name: Christina Freitag

The Other Side of the River

August 6, 2011

Author: Alex Kotlowitz

Title: The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 317

Geographical Setting: Benton Harbor, Michigan and St. Joseph, Michigan

Time Period: 1992-1996 with references to events occurring in 1991 and earlier.

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Journalist Alex Kotlowitz comes to Benton Harbor, Michigan with the intention of examining one of America’s poorest and most violent communities. This changes, however, when Kotlowitz discovers that 16 year-old Eric McGinnis, a black boy from the impoverished town, was found floating in the river dissecting Benton Harbor and its predominately white and affluent neighbor, St. Joseph. Kotlowitz becomes obsessed with the death, one that was hastily ruled an accident. The author spends four years traveling between the two starkly different communities in an attempt to discover the truth behind Eric’s death. Kotlowitz learns that the notion of truth vastly differs as he crosses the bridge connecting each town. Benton Harbor residents know Eric was murdered, likely by a white person from St. Joseph. St. Joseph residents, however, would like to let the tragic event live in the past. Despite their differences, residents of both towns fear the potential for race riots and chaos if the truth about Eric’s death is ever discovered. This investigative story offers a bleak account of race relations and racial inequality in the United States. It also presents a gritty report of the senseless violence prevalent throughout impoverished communities. Despite its stark tone, this book reads quickly as its subject compels its reader to learn more about the mysterious and tragic death.

Subject Headings: Murder Victims–Michigan, Unsolved Murders–Michigan, McGinnis, Eric, d. 1991, Race Relations–Case Studies–United States, Poverty–Benton Harbor (MI), Investigative Journalism, Violent Crimes–Teens, African-Americans

Appeal: Atmospheric, Compelling, Episodic, Bleak, Gritty, Poignant, Uneasy, Intriguing, Sobering, Multiple Points of View, Sympathetic, Investigative, Issue-oriented, Moving, Thought provoking, Violent, Tragic, Timeless, Urban, Informative, Journalistic, Frank, Well-Researched

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Issue-oriented, Gritty, Sobering

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English
(This journalistic account of race relations and violence during the most violent period in the history of New York City details murder investigations, corrupt police, and racial tension. The result is an issue-oriented, tragic, and timeless work of non-fiction that creates a gritty tone and sobering mood.)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
(This journalistic piece of non-fiction revolves around a violent murder and the ensuing investigation. In addition to representing a true crime story, Capote offers a frank discussion of senseless violence in the United States, thereby creating a sobering mood.)

Hate Crime: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas by Joyce King
(This investigative true-crime story offers a discussion of racism and inequality in the United States through the frame of a violent hate crime. The author creates a bleak and stark vision of race relations in the US that proves sobering)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Native Son by Richard Wright
(This novel features a violent murder in an urban setting. The events help demonstrate racial inequality and injustice in the urban United States. Other themes discussed include African-American poverty and hopelessness. Wright creates a novel with a compelling pace that is coupled with a bleak mood and thought-provoking story.)

A Murder of Justice by Andrew Roberts
(This novel tells a compelling story in which urban law enforcement coerce testimony during a murder investigation. The police force faces racially-charged pressure to convict the African-American suspect with a criminal past. The novel is thought-provoking, gritty, issue-oriented, and tragic.)

Snow Angels by James Thompson
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Dan Thorson